Asbestos is a fibrous material derived from hydrous magnesium silicate. First used as a flame retardant, asbestos was soon adopted as an insulating material for commercial buildings, warehouses, ships and homes. Not until the 1970s were the dangers of asbestos realised. The sharp, glasslike fibres which make up asbestos have been linked to mesothelioma and a variety of other lung- and skin-related conditions. If your garage was built before 1980, there are several steps you can take to identify asbestos cement in its floor.
Strike your garage floor with the tip of a screwdriver and listen to the resulting sound. Asbestos cement, usually installed in large sheets, tends to make a drum-like sound when struck. Unlike regular cement, it does not make a solid thudding noise.
Look at the edges of your garage floor (where your driveway meets, for example). Asbestos cement is more prone to chipping and fracture along the edges than regular cement.
Pick a discreet part of your garage floor and use a hammer and chisel to chip out a small piece of cement. Go to a well-lit area and look at the chip through a magnifying glass. If you see an abundance of fibrous material mixed with the concrete, your garage floor contains asbestos cement.
Test the sample. Take your cement sample to a registered asbestos testing facility if you are unsure. Local laboratories can be found in a telephone directory or an online search.
- If you discover that your garage floor contains asbestos cement, contact a licensed asbestos remover immediately. Notify your landlord if applicable.
- Don't avoid evaluating or removing your asbestos problem. Doing so may have protracted health consequences for you or your family.